U.S. marshalls (not seen) block Ghislaine Maxwell from speaking with her sister Isabel during jury deliberations in the trial of Jeffrey Epstein associate Maxwell in a courtroom sketch in New York City, December 29, 2021.
Jane Rosenberg | Reuters
Lawyers for British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell on Wednesday asked a judge to set aside her recent conviction for abetting the sexual abuse of underage girls, citing media interviews with a juror after the trial in which he said he himself had been sexually abused as a child and had discussed that fact during jury deliberations.
The lawyers implied in publicly disclosed parts of two letters to Judge Alison Nathan that the juror failed to reveal his history of being abused during the jury selection process, despite having being asked to do so on a written questionnaire.
Maxwell’s lawyers asked Nathan for a new trial on the charges, saying “we believe the law and facts are clearly on our side.”
In one letter filed in Manhattan federal court, they said there are “incontrovertible grounds for a new trial under” the federal rules of criminal procedure. Much of that letter contained details that were blacked out in a publicly available version.
In the second letter, Maxwell’s lawyers noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has said that a person who seeks a new trial “demonstrate that a juror failed to answer honestly a material question” during jury selection, “and then further show that a correct response would have provided a valid basis for a challenge for cause.”
“This standard applies even if juror’s conduct was merely inadvertent and not intentional,” the defense lawyers wrote.
A challenge for cause is made by lawyers when they believe a person should not be seated on a jury because of a potential bias or other reason that would disqualify them from deliberating on a certain case.
The bombshell development came after prosecutors notified Nathan of the juror’s recent interviews with several media outlets, which were conducted after Maxwell was convicted of multiple felonies on Dec. 29 related to her procuring underage girls to be sexually abused by the late money manager Jeffrey Epstein.
Maxwell, 60, faces decades in prison when she is sentenced for the five counts on which she was convicted. She has been held in a federal jail without bail since her arrest in July 2020, after Nathan found she was a serious flight risk.
Prosecutors themselves asked Nathan to open an inquiry into the 35-year-old juror, who told at least three media outlets that he had shared his story about being sexually abused as a boy during deliberations in Maxwell’s trial.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that a second juror told that newspaper that they discussed their own experience of sexual abuse with other jurors.
Prosecutors noted that the first juror is quoted in reports as saying he “flew through” a prospective jury questionnaire that he was required to complete before he was picked for the trial, and did not recall being asked whether he had been a victim of sexual abuse.
But in interviews, the Manhattan resident told reporters he would have answered honestly if asked that question, the letter noted.
That questionnaire did ask if would-be jurors had been sexually abused, or if anyone in their families had been a victim of such abuse.
The letter did not reveal whether the juror who gave the interviews disclosed on his questionnaire that he had been sexually abused, much less whether that man was then questioned by Judge Nathan if that fact would affect his ability to be fair to Maxwell.
But if that juror, or any other juror, failed to disclose being sexually abused when asked on the questionnaire, Maxwell’s lawyers could cite that as grounds to set aside the jury’s verdict.
“The Government believes the Court should conduct an inquiry,” prosecutors wrote in their letter.
Within hours of the prosecutor’s letter, Maxwell’s lawyer Christian Everdell wrote Nathan, saying, “We write concerning an issue of pressing importance.”
Everdell then detailed the claims already revealed by the prosecutor, adding that, “According to the Juror, his disclosure influenced the deliberations and convinced other members of the jury to convict Ms. Maxwell.”
A large part of the three-page letter was blacked out, including the first part of the sentence that ended with the words “presents incontrovertible grounds for a new trial.”
Prosecutors asked Nathan to schedule a hearing in one month and suggested the juror be asked whether he wants a court-appointed lawyer for that hearing. That request implies that the juror might have legal exposure if he failed to disclose his sexual abuse on the questionnaire.
The first juror who spoke to reporters, identified in interviews by his first and middle names, Scotty David, told The Independent that he told fellow jury members during their deliberations about his abuse to explain why some of Maxwell’s accusers might misremember certain details related to their own abuse.
“I know what happened when I was sexually abused. I remember the colour of the carpet, the walls. Some of it can be replayed like a video,” he told The Independent.
“But I can’t remember all the details, there are some things that run together.”
The newspaper also reported that some jurors questioned why Maxwell’s accusers did not come forward earlier with their allegations.
David told The Independent that he had not disclosed his own abuse “until I was in high school,” and said the jury room went completely silent when he shared the story of that abuse.
Epstein, 66, died in August 2019 from what has officially been ruled a suicide by hanging while in a Manhattan federal jail as he awaited his own trial on child sex trafficking charges.
A former friend of Presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, as well as of Britain’s Prince Andrew, Epstein has been accused of abusing scores of underage girls over the years.